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As COVID-19 emergency relief ends in May, people say they still need help

Many Norfolk residents say the COVID-19 pandemic is not over, even if emergency assistance ends.

NORFOLK, Va. — People who run organizations across Hampton Roads are bracing their budgets for the end of COVID-19 emergency declarations. 

President Joe Biden announced the national emergency will end in May. This means the extra federal relief funds to help people during the pandemic will either change or get cut completely.

Local food pantries are staying busy. Many people looking for food assistance said the COVID-19 pandemic is far from over and the struggles carry on.

“Man, no matter what they say, it still hasn't stopped for us," Norfolk resident Antonio Wood stated, saying he came for help to feed his family of six.

“I came to get some food because me and my family is struggling. The pandemic slowed us down," said Wood. 

Workers at the Royster Presbyterian Church food pantry in Norfolk said they are seeing more people in need.

“In 2019 we were seeing about 40 family visits per month. In 2021 and '22 we were seeing between 400 and 600 family visits per month," said food pantry manager William Brown. 

Right now, staff with the Foodbank of Southeastern Virginia and the Eastern Shore are urging Virginia’s Senate Finance Committee to support a proposal that will allow $5 million to help local food banks and pantries keep food on the shelves.

“We’re dealing with an increase in cost for almost everything, so we can anticipate that when these relief measures go away, the need is going to increase," said Leah Williams-Rumbley, who is the director of advocacy at the Foodbank. 

Virginia Department of Health officials also responding to the ending of the COVID-19 emergencies.

 "VDH is reviewing the impacts that the end of the public health emergency will bring as it relates to testing, vaccine, treatments. VDH continues to monitor the trends of COVID-19, responds to outbreaks in more vulnerable settings, supports vaccination efforts, and distributes testing kits to certain settings," VDH spokesperson Larry Hill said in a statement.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention created a tool that allows someone to type in their zip code and find the places that are administering free COVID-19 tests.

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